Photo by Bill Cooper.
There was a time when most of the bowhunting in Kentucky took place during the few weeks leading up to the November gun season. For many years — until 1997, in fact — Oct. 1 was the opening date established for archery deer hunting.
Today, Bluegrass bowhunters use a variety of different methods and techniques to take wallhanger whitetails successfully throughout the season.
For example, on last year’s opening weekend — when most bucks were still in their predictable late-summer pattern of moving between bedding and feeding areas — archers accounted for several giant whitetails in velvet.
Particularly noteworthy were Hurley Combs Jr.’s monster 18-point non-typical from Casey County, scoring 205 6/8; Michael Skipworth’s Todd County typical 10-pointer, scoring 160 1/8; and Robert Dunaway’s awesome Knox County non-typical, scoring 172 2/8.
Later, in mid- to late September, archers Dennis Sharp and Larry Marcum concentrated their hunting efforts near specific feeding locations to take outstanding non-typical bucks.
Sharp’s Bracken County 23-pointer scores 201 1/8, while Marcum’s Wayne County 14-pointer scores 180 7/8.
During the pre- to early-rut period of late October and very early November, two additional giant bucks — both typicals — were recorded by bowhunters Danny Preston Jr. and Larry Carter.
Preston’s heavy antlered 10-pointer, taken in Jessamine County, scores 170 5/8.
Carter’s near-perfect 12-pointer scores 167 1/8, ranking as Rockcastle County’s top all-time bow kill.
This impressive list of big Pope and Young (P&Y) whitetails, all taken prior to gun season, would easily top the 2007 archery results from many other states. But as the season progressed, Kentucky bowhunters kept adding to the 2007 totals, taking their state’s top two typical bucks during the last two days of December.
RICK McGLOTHEN’S HUGE JESSAMINE COUNTY 10-POINTER
Shortly before noon on Dec. 31, Rick McGlothen, of Georgetown, climbed into his deer stand on Jessamine County farmland composed of several small woodlots, bordered by open fields of various acreages, some planted in clover or alfalfa.
Rick had been unable to hunt that morning, and so planned to spend the rest of New Year’s Eve day at the site. His stand was positioned in a wooded hollow approximately 150 to 200 yards below the clover and alfalfa fields. Well-used deer trails meandered through the scattered trees and patches of high grass and weeds in the narrow bottom.
Rick had hunted this particular location several times earlier during the season. He’d sighted a number of bucks, including a couple that were definitely shooters. Unfortunately, the big deer always seemed to pass just beyond bow range.
Around 2 p.m., two does walked into view, moving slowly along one of trails that passed through the bottom.
A short while later, another doe appeared, accompanied by a young 8-point buck. Both deer eventually followed the same path as the earlier does.
“Minutes later,” Rick said, “I spotted a much larger buck — about 75 yards away, but moving in my general direction. As the big 10-pointer got closer, I recognized the buck as one of several deer videoed while feeding in an old garden site on the farm in late August. That buck hadn’t been seen since.”
The big whitetail continued to approach. Slowly Rick maneuvered into shooting position. There seemed to be no problem with the direction of a slight afternoon breeze. But at 35 yards, the buck stopped abruptly and turned, looking directly at the hunter.
“The deer really didn’t appear to be alarmed, but I wasn’t about to take any chances. Already at full draw, I released my arrow.”
In the bright afternoon sunlight, Rick watched the arrow’s shaft disappear just behind the deer’s shoulder.
Almost instantly, the buck whirled around and began to run, but quickly stumbled and went down after covering less than 50 yards.
The hunter walked to where the big whitetail had fallen and knelt down to examine the buck’s record-class rack.
Obviously, there are many joyous ways to mark the end of a calendar year. But from a bowhunting perspective, Rick’s late-December hunt would certainly be tough to top.
While the rack’s 26-inch beams and 18-inch inside spread are impressive, definitely its most outstanding feature is tine length.
For example, the paired back tines (G-2s) measure 14 7/8 and 11 6/8 inches, followed by G-3s of 13 0/8 and 12 7/8 inches, and amazingly long G-4s of 11 0/8 and 9 5/8 inches.
The 5×5 typical grosses 182 1/8 and, after asymmetry deductions plus one small abnormal point, nets a final P&Y score of 173 3/8.
This also qualifies the deer for Boone and Crockett’s (B&C) Awards and All-Time record books. Additionally, the deer ranks as the No. 2 typical bow kill of 2007 and is the biggest typical whitetail ever taken in Jessamine County.
Interestingly, the previous county record was held — for only for 55 days! — by Danny Preston Jr.’s 10-pointer, which scored 170 5/8 and was taken in early November 2007.
THOMAS OAKS’ BREATHITT COUNTY GIANT
It’s fair to say that Thomas Oaks’ home in the rugged hills and hollows of the Cumberland Plateau is a little off the beaten path. In fact, in the mountain hollow where he lives, his in-laws’ house is the only other dwelling. Four years ago, the creek bottom and most of the surrounding ridges and hillsides were clear-cut, creating an overgrown tangle of saplings, saw briars and brush, virtually impenetrable in places.
“There are deer around, but the population is fairly low,” Thomas said. “Because of the very thick cover, they are difficult to see and even tougher to hunt.
“Last year, my in-laws planted a big garden d
own by the creek. And even though the deer ended up eating about half of what was produced, we sighed only a doe or two, only occasionally. And that was usually at night.”
Thomas had never spotted a big buck in the hollow, but he had no doubt that one was in the area.
A set of extremely large tracks kept appearing regularly at a well-used creek crossing. And during several scouting trips the previous fall, he’d discovered some amazing examples of big buck sign.
“There were places where the buck had broken over entire clusters of large saplings or twisted them in half,” Thomas noted. “A few bigger trees had rubs and antler scars approximately waist-high.”
The hunter realized that an additional food source would keep attracting deer to the area near his home. He sowed winter wheat in a small site along the creek, in the same general location as the summer garden.
Unfortunately, family responsibilities involving his brother — a cancer patient in Nashville, Tenn. — gave Thomas very little hunting time. On the few occasions when he was able to hunt, he sighted only does.
One night during the week following Christmas, Thomas Was back at home when he received a call from his mother-in-law. She told him that while driving to her house that evening, her headlights had briefly illuminated two huge bucks standing in the winter wheat plot.
At that time, because of his brother’s situation, the very cold weather and having seen so few deer on earlier hunts, Thomas had basically stopped hunting. However, the telephone call quickly changed his immediate plans.
“The following week, I’d be returning to Tennessee to be with my brother,” he explained. “Therefore, my hunting time was limited to the final weekend of the year. I was really afraid that the bucks wouldn’t show up until after dark. But I hoped that possibly the cold weather might have them moving a little earlier.”
On Saturday afternoon, Thomas positioned a pop-up ground blind on a high bank above the creek, adjacent to the planted wheat. The weather was cold, and a steady breeze was blowing out of the northwest when Thomas crawled into the blind shortly after 4:30 p.m.
About an hour later, with daylight slowly fading, the hunter began hearing limbs cracking and breaking on the opposite side of the creek, in a brushy ravine.
As the sounds got closer, Thomas carefully unzipped the window from the front of his blind and removed it.
“I never saw the deer until it jumped the creek,” he said. “At that point, it was only about 25 yards away. At that distance, the buck’s tremendous size was a little overwhelming.
“I remembered hearing other hunters talk about getting buck fever. Until that moment, I hadn’t really thought much about it. However, as the big deer slowly continued to walk closer and closer, I quickly became a nervous wreck.”
The giant whitetail was totally unaware of the concealed hunter. Intent on feeding, it approached to within 10 yards of his blind.
“At one time, my nerves got to the point where I worried about being able to hold and draw the bow. But finally I forced myself to concentrate totally on the deer’s body and on making the shot. Fortunately, I was able to do exactly that.”
The arrow slammed into the deer’s side. The buck abruptly whirled sideways, nearly charging straight into the blind. For several seconds, Thomas sat, listening to the sounds of the running deer fading quickly into the distance.
Nervous and excited, the hunter stepped out of the blind, trying to figure out the approximate route the buck had taken. Large splayed-out tracks adjacent to his blind indicated that the deer had headed in the general direction of a narrow dirt road a short distance away, bordering a wheat patch and leading to an old cemetery.
“I walked down the road a short distance. By this time, however, it had gotten too dark to really see very well,” Thomas noted.
“I retrieved a flashlight from my house and resumed searching around the wheat plot, along the road and on a nearby hillside. But I didn’t find blood or any other signs of the deer.
“The longer I looked, the more nervous I became. Had I had somehow made a poor shot?
“Eventually, my legs began shaking so badly I had to sit down.”
After thinking over the situation for several minutes, the hunter returned to the dirt road and began walking slowly toward the cemetery, carefully searching with his flashlight along both side of the road.
“Several yards down the road, my beam hit something sticking up out of the roadside ditch,” Thomas recalled.
“That ‘something’ turned out to be one side of the buck’s rack. Words can’t really express how I felt at that moment, or when I saw the buck’s antlers up close for the first time.
“Definitely an experience I will never forget!”
The buck’s giant rack places it in a truly unforgettable class of whitetails, especially for Kentucky’s eastern mountains. The huge 12-point typical frame includes 26-inch main beams and an antler spread of 23 inches outside and 21 5/8 inches inside, plus exceptional antler mass. Five of the eight circumferences measure 5 inches or more.
After grossing 189 1/8, minor asymmetry deductions, plus three sticker points, reduce the final P&Y score to 180 4/8. This also qualifies the deer for both B&C record books.
Additionally, the buck ranks as the state’s top typical bow kill of 2007, and is the biggest typical whitetail ever recorded for Breathitt County.
TWO HENDERSON COUNTY TROPHY BOW KILLS
During the 2003 season, John Rutledge took Henderson County’s biggest all-time typical whitetail — a gigantic 12-pointer grossing 195 6/8 and netting 183 /8 B&C points. While hunting with Rutledge last November, bowhunters Lex Luby and Rob Grubb also took outstanding bucks.
Positioned along a small ridge above a hardwood bottom, Lex was overlooking a line of very fresh scrapes. The hunter was wet and cold from sitting nearly three hours in a steady morning rain, but he quickly forgot his discomfort when two does went past his stand, trailed by a heavy-antlered buck.
Using a crossbow, Lex connected on a perfect 25-yard shot.
The big whitetail had a massive 8-point typical frame with deep forks on both matching back tines (G-2s), which tape over 11 inches. The long main beams exceed 26 inches, and their inside spread is 19 6/8 inches. Nearly 18 inches of abnormal points pushes the final non-typical score to 171 6/8.
This makes the Henderson County buck the state’s second-biggest non-typical to be taken with a crossbow.
Bowhunter Rob Grubb was positioned in a narrow wooded draw about 75 yards from a combined bean field, watching a travel corridor that deer had been using to enter and exit the field.
On his third morning at the location, following a heavy rain, the hunter watched an impressive 11-pointer walk under his stand. Minutes later, he arrowed a much larger 10-pointer that was trailing another deer.
Its massive rack includes 25 1/2-inch main beams and four tines that measure between 9 7/8 and 8 4/8 inches. After grossing 159 1/8, the very symmetrical rack nets a final P&Y score of 155 3/8.